JSConf Iceland 2016 🎉
Wow, where should I even begin, what an amazing journey!
A big thank you to everyone who came and a big hug to all of my new friends out there ❤️
I want to start out this article thanking the A-team that I had the honour of working with. What an amazing group of people. Our work speaks for itself and we really hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did. This article is only my view of the whole event, and does not represent the feelings or thoughts of my fellow organizers or the people that are mentioned in this article 😊
From zero to one
It was decided on the 6th of December 2015 to host this thing called JSConf. It may seem random at first but in retrospect it came together like a perfect puzzle.
A few years ago we had no developer meetups in Iceland. Not weekly, monthly or even yearly. Really there was nothing. It was as undefined as the WiFi password at the conference. Out of pure love for technology we decided to host a meetup back in 2013 around Node.js that was gaining a lot of traction. We had fun. Around 12 people showed up so we decided that this would become a monthly thing.
Fast forward to December 2015. We had hosted 5 consecutive meetups with well above 150 attendees, some even well above the 200 mark, and yes, it gets really hard to count people at that point 😋. We had hosted a drone hackathon, Nodeschool events, beer.js and many spontaneous gatherings like nothing was easier. We had become a strong community. But we wanted to do something more, and the opportunity was about to reveal itself.
Two of the organizers, went to jsconfus and it changed everything. When they came back they told us there was not going to be a jsconfeu 2016, which was really unfortunate but I think we all thought: “this is our chance” (it was not announced at jsconfus but they just connected the dots there). We basically took it from there. On the 6th of December it was decided, somehow we were going to host JSConf Iceland 2016. We got introduced to Jan from the jsconfeu team and he really got us started. I truly believe that he saw something in us, based on how much he trusted us with his own brainchild and by the amount of time he was willing to help us out. Soon we got connected to holger, which I personally talked a lot to for our sponsoring efforts. I also got to meet Malte in person at a beer.js event while living in San Francisco earlier this year and he helped us land our first international sponsor, Google. I have no words to describe how much I love and appreciate these guys. They were willing to do anything for us without anything in return.
There were a lot of huge milestones on the way but it would take many articles to write about all of them. Basically the A-team I mentioned before tackled them in the best possible way. It is also very hard and unfair to pin a task to any one of us since all of us stepped up into appropriate roles. If you want to know more about the process, hit us up on twitter, skype, hangouts or slack.
The day before
I woke up super excited and rushed out into the day knowing this was going to be the day, everything was about to change. The organizers met for a final hands down panic work meeting before we all started to run for different errands. When the night finally came everything was set up at Bryggjan Brugghús, the first venue of the conference. It started out super slowly but people eventually showed up. A lot of great people where there and some groundwork was laid for the things to come. Judging by the badge delivery we had around 170 people there, plus all the significant others that joined in. Great start for what turned out to be a great conference!
Thursday aka the big day
I woke up feeling a bit hung over with a bit of a cold. Definitely not the best start but the positive energy from the night before was the only thing I needed to keep going. The day was going to be spent in Harpa, our main conference venue. What an excellent choice. It has some crazy architecture and people really liked it. A great venue but they forgot the first thing they had to deliver, the breakfast. We almost had a heart attack when we found out breakfast had not been served. I honestly thought to my self: “is jsconfis really going to be like that?”. The situation got solved swiftly and everything worked out in the end.
The opening ceremony was fun, we got two of the most famous comedians in Iceland to be our MC’s. The crowd loved them, and a lot of people were laughing constantly (me included). Some jokes could have been left unsaid but hey, that’s comedy! The day ended up being filled with great talks and I’m actually bit sad that I only saw half of them since this was a two track conference. I’m looking forward to watching the talks when they have been published (yes, we are working on it 😉).
When the talks were finished we had prepared something unique and unexpected in the next hall, which was just one doorway away from the main venue hall. We told everyone there was going to be a super special announcement in few minutes and asked everyone to walk through this mysterious doorway in the back. I could feel the excitement in the air, no one was saying anything as we moved into the doorway. When people came in their senses were mesmerized.
We had prepared some smoke machines, a DJ playing techno music, GOBO stencil lights with the conference logo and a wall light show everywhere in sync with the music. Everyone was excited but as they were waiting for the special announcement. For the whole day (and some weeks before) we had been creating a competition where people would code for 15 minutes, trying to recreate a website without seeing it on their own screen. When we announced the competition it quickly filled up with 16 contestants who were ready to hack away. When it all began everyone was so pumped and was cheering for whom they thought was doing best. It was hilarious and also informative to see the different strategies people were using (why did no one use fixed positioning?). After 3 rounds of this we had a winner, who decided to donate his prize to one of the diversity attendants. That act of kindness really shows what this community is made out of.
We had also prepared a hackathon, one that would be even crazier than the competition before it. We were able to convince Harpa to allow us to hack the 2x54 led lights controlling the wall lights in the hall. We created an IDE on top of it where people could run emulations and eventually run it on the walls itself. It was epic, people were doing a lot of crazy routines but my favourite was probably the one with the song Sandstorm playing at the same time.
The first two days of the conference were over. So far so good.
Again an epic day with a lot of great talks. Jan wrapped up the conference with an inspiring talk about our community and what we can do better. It was interesting to see the conference being opened by Myles along the same lines. Definitely connected the two together. Then we all got very emotional, thanked everyone who made this conference come true. We invited everyone to the stage for a final family photo, which is a jsconf ritual. I truly felt like we were one human being standing on that stage.
After the first farewell of the conference we moved to our venue for the night, Gamla Bíó. Everything had been prepared in a viking theme, we had 6 real vikings from the oldest viking association in Iceland come and they greeted everyone when arriving. Watching people walking under the swords as they clanged reminded me of all the medieval movies with the knights.
But that’s not all, the best thing about the venue was the rooftop terrace! couches, heat lamps, sightseeing points… truly created a great atmosphere. We were also unbelievably lucky with the weather. Many of us stayed there for most of the night and then some went to the hot dog stand to grab a pylsa 😂. Fantastic night out with a lot of great people.
Waking up after 3 hours of sleep took some real willpower. Probably top 5 hardest thing I have done in my life but it was all worth it because we were going on a snowmobile trip! When we got on the bus most of the people had the same story, but the spirit was high although the level of rest was low. I expected everyone to sleep the whole way but somehow they tricked me into being the guide for the whole trip. We discussed glaciers, volcanoes, sheep and the weather. It was brought up that it sounded a lot like Sheldon Cooper’s fun with flags. Kristján’s fun with sheep is definitely something I will have to think hard and long about doing 😂. We saw Gullfoss and Geysir, ate some traditional meet-soup and finally went on top of Langjökull glacier for the snowmobile trip. It was so much fun and the best part was the Daft Punk snow fight on our first stop(yes everyone looked like a Daft Punk robot).
After destroying everything in our way on that glacier, we were headed for Blue Lagoon. Going into the lagoon was a much needed reward for the crazy few days that had just passed. There were so many of us there you could swim up to anyone and strike up a conversation. I have so many good memories from the lagoon; the waterfall, the noodle lady, the cave exploring and the mud mask just to name a few.
By the time we left the lagoon, dinner was already being served. A buffet of various delicacies. This was probably my favourite meal of the whole conference. After getting stuffed by way too much sushi, I enjoyed some easy going conversations while the last prawns settled in my stomach.
After dinner we went back to Reykjavík. We met up at a self made karaoke that Visnu and some other cool people had hacked together at the speaker hotel. What an epic event. The events that happened after that are definitely not on the topic of this post but basically we enjoyed the amazing nightlife Reykjavík has to offer (we went to Húrra, highly recommended).
When I woke up on Sunday my body was completely burnt out, empathy for your self anyone? All things considered it was so worth it. From the bottom of my heart, JSConf Iceland, was one of the best times I have had in my life and reading people’s comments on twitter got me emotional because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback. I shed a tear two reading through my feed. I am definitely going to JSConf EU 2017!
I am looking forward to JSConf Iceland 20… oh wait, we haven’t announced anything yet, stay tuned 😉.